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Survey offers window into smart grid awareness in New York

From the July 19, 2017 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published July 18, 2017

By Peter Maloney
Contributing Writer

A recently released joint report by the New York State Smart Grid Consortium and the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative found that 80% of New York State residents believe the state should invest in the expansion of clean energy, and two-thirds of downstate residents say the state should provide incentives for electric vehicles.

The New York Consumer Pulse Study, released July 13, also found that half of all New Yorkers are interested in learning more about the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision initiative and 56% support REV’s overall goals.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s REV program is an effort to make the state’s energy sector cleaner and more resilient by refashioning regulatory structures and encouraging the use of new technologies.

Despite a high level of interest in REV, the report, which is based on 721 completed surveys by New York residents, found that only 20% of New York consumers have heard of REV and only 2% have visited the program’s website.

“I believe that disparity underscores the importance of educating and engaging consumers as we work to modernize the grid and transform distribution utilities,” James Gallagher, executive director of the New York State Smart Grid Consortium, said in an email. “Consumers need to be partners in the effort, and most are willing to be. The survey identifies many consumer education and outreach opportunities throughout New York State.”

The report says the survey results highlight the need for further education, particularly in the Mid-Hudson and Upstate regions, the report’s authors said. The survey analyzed responses by four geographical regions: Downstate, Long Island, Mid-Hudson, and Upstate.

While the report found that consumer awareness and interest in smart grid-enabled services and general awareness of energy efficiency and other measures of consumer-utility relationships appear to be average in New York compared with the national level, there are “stark regional and demographic differences.”

Millennials, urban residents, especially urban Downstate residents, or residents with higher incomes tend to be clean energy champions. In contrast, consumers in rural areas, those born before 1945, or those with lower incomes are more likely to be less enthusiastic about clean energy.

Electric vehicles

Two-thirds of downstate residents are in favor of incentives for electric vehicles, but electric vehicles were a lower priority for New York residents overall with only 50% favoring the promotion of electric vehicles, compared with 79% saying they are in favor of investing in clean energy.

Electric vehicles are also much more popular among Millennials and members of Generation X, 57% and 43% interest levels, respectively, compared with members of the Greatest Generation or Baby Boomers, with interest levels of 11% and 22%, respectively.

Urban residents also expressed a stronger interest in electric vehicles, 43%, compared with the 19% of residents of rural areas who expressed an interest in electric vehicles.

The report was commissioned by the New York State Smart Grid Consortium and conducted as part of sixth wave of Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative’s Consumer Pulse and Market Segmentation Study, which surveyed a national audience.

In comparison with the national results, the New York survey found that 68% to 65% of New Yorkers are aware of the smart grid and smart meters, a marginally lower level than reported in the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative’s national survey in June, but only 18% of the New York respondents reported having participated in or used at least one Smart Grid-enabled utility program.

In a similar vein, 83% of New York consumers said having an energy efficient home is highly important to them, but they were less knowledgeable about how to make their homes energy efficient than the national average.

Among the conclusions the authors drew from the report was a strong overlap in demographic characteristics among those who embrace a digital lifestyle and those who have aptitude for a clean energy lifestyle. The survey found that those consumers tend to be younger, urban, and college educated, and they demonstrate an interest in and willingness to try smart energy products and services.

However, the survey also showed that despite a stronger aptitude for a clean energy lifestyle, younger people, especially Millennials, generally see more barriers to taking energy-saving actions. For instance, Millennials and renters feel disadvantaged because they are reluctant to share incentives with their landlords.

One way to address that gap would be a wider use of community solar programs. The report found that 61% of Downstate consumers were interested in community solar programs.

One conclusion the authors drew from the report is that it may be “helpful to avoid ‘one size fits all’ outreach, education and program design. Targeting audiences that are already listening and using messages and formats that will resonate with these groups may deliver more cost-effective results for the state and energy stakeholders.”

SGCC and the New York State Smart Grid Consortium have scheduled a webinar related to the study on July 19. Additional details are available here.

Public power

Public power utilities in New York are actively pursuing smart grid and distributed energy resource projects.

For example, the New York Power Authority is taking aggressive steps to digitize its operations. NYPA President and CEO Gil Quiniones recently said the Authority has “made the decision that we are going to be the first digital utility in the United States, maybe in the world, and we are well on our way.”

Cuomo on June 2 unveiled details on a new initiative under which New York state will make an investment of up to $1.5 billion in major renewable energy projects, including wind and solar, and significantly expand energy efficiency and solar installations at public buildings. The NYPA will play a central role in the initiative.

The Authority in early June issued a related request for proposals.

And NYPA is participating in a microgrid project recently unveiled by Cuomo.

Meanwhile, the Long Island Power Authority on April 22 announced its draft 2017 Integrated Resource Plan, or IRP, the public power utility’s roadmap for the next 20 years.

Instead of building traditional baseload power plants, LIPA plans to meet the needs of its 1.1 million customers on Long Island over the next two decades largely by investing in more energy efficiency, renewable energy, and distributed, flexible resources.

The draft IRP, summarized in a 19-page Energy Guide, calls for LIPA to save 950 megawatts through energy efficiency measures and rooftop solar installations between now and 2030. That is the equivalent of about three power plants.

In January, the utility’s board approved the 90-megawatt offshore South Fork Wind Farm, which will be the first offshore wind farm in New York.



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